THE Murrurundi Troop of the 12th Australian Light Horse invites residents to attend the commemorative service this weekend to mark the 99th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba.
This colourful service honours the heroic efforts of Australian troops and their horses during World War I.
The ceremony will take place from 11am on Saturday at Wilson Memorial Oval and include a parade by Scone RSL Pipes and Drums, the mounted troopers of Murrurundi Light Horse, school children from Blandford and Murrurundi schools, and a captured German Field Gun.
Mayor Wayne Bedggood will emcee the event and there will be a short address about the historic battle.
The Battle of Beersheba, perhaps the greatest horse charge in history, took place in Palestine on October 31, 1917.
It was an extraordinary part of Australian history with strong links to families still living in the Upper Hunter.
The men were mostly stockmen, drovers, farmers, graziers, or station hands.
About a third had brought their own horses with them from Australia.
In the Battle of Beersheba 800 horses and riders thundering toward gun fire changed the history of the war in the Middle East.
They started from a walk-march, to a trot, then to a canter, then to a gallop.
Of the 800 men who rode in the charge, 31 men were killed – nearly all in the trenches.
Those who cleared the trenches or veered around, galloped straight for the enemy guns, capturing them intact, then continuing their gallop, rode on to Beersheba.
From the time the Regiments received orders to saddle up to the entry into Beersheba, less than one hour had passed.
By that night about 58,000 light horsemen and 100,000 animals had swarmed into Beersheba. It took 1.8 million litres of water to shed their battle thirst.
After Gaza fell, Turkish resistance in southern Palestine collapsed.
The 12th Light Horse continued to serve and was one of the first Australian units to enter Damascus in October 1918.
The Turks surrendered on October 30, 1918.
While awaiting to embark for home, the 12th Light Horse were called back to operational duty to quell the Egyptian revolt in March 1919; the regiment didn’t sail for home until July 1919.
In the years to come the men would talk of the action at Beersheba, but as one Light Horseman said: “It was the horses that did it; those marvellous bloody horses. Where would we have been but for them?”
During World War I, 136,000 horses were shipped from Australia into fighting fronts. They were transported on ships and the Light Horsemen spent most of their time tending their horse, strengthening the bond between them.
Once on land again, everything the Light Horse trooper needed for fighting and living was carried by their horse, 150kg worth of supplies for long distances in searing heat. When the war ended word quickly spread that because of quarantine regulations – “the horses stay behind” - only one returned to Australia.
The men of the 12th Light Horse sailed for Australia in July 1919 – after four long years.